29.1.10

NOT YET THE BAR HARBOR EXPRESS. An extension of the Downeaster is among the projects receiving federal grants to speed up and expand Passenger Rail service.

Thanks to the announced $35 million grant, the Downeaster route will extend an additional 30 miles north of Portland to Brunswick, Maine, stopping along the way at the town of Freeport (site of a 24-hour LL Bean outlet store).

The grant will upgrade Pan Am's freight line between Portland and Brunswick (now a 30- to 40-mph line used by 6 trains a day between Portland and Yarmouth, and two trains a week on the 16-mile Brunswick Branch. The funds will go to installing welded rail and new ties over the route and improve 36 grade crossings.

Once the upgrades are done, travel time on the extension should take about 50 minutes. Bonus: At Brunswick, riders will have the chance to transfer to summer excursion trains to Rockport, Maine, run by the Maine Eastern.

That project is one from a Cold Spring Shops wish list. (View a Cold Spring Shops Downeaster report from the Quebec Riviera.) The Bar Harbor and the old Down Easter, complete with through sleepers from Philadelphia and New York to Rockland? Not yet.

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